GCSAA presents Ted Horton with 50 Year award


Ted Horton is presented with a 50 year pin from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America. Photo provided by Leann cooper.

Canyon Lake resident Ted Horton received his 50-year pin from the Golf Course Superintendents Association of America on Feb. 8 in San Antonio, Texas. Since 1926, the Golf Course Superintendents Association has been the professional organization for men and women who manage and maintain the game of golf’s most valuable resource – the golf course. Headquartered in Lawrence, Kansas, it provides educational, informational, and representational support to more than 17,000 members in more than 72 countries. Its mission is to serve its members, advance the profession and promote the vitality of the game of golf.

Ted received his degree from the Stockbridge School of Agriculture in Turf Management at the University of Massachusetts in 1967. He was an intern, assistant and superintendent at Winged Foot Golf Club, perennially in the top twenty courses in the U.S. He hosted the 1972 U. S. Women’s Open, the 1974 U.S. Men’s Open and countless amateur tournaments. In 1979, he moved to Westchester County Club, where there was an annual PGA event, the Buick Classic, once the Thunderbird Classic. He brought conditions at Westchester to such high standards that the tournament was moved from August to the week before the U.S. Open.

In 1993, Ted took the job of Vice President for Resource Management at the Pebble Beach Company. He supervised four top courses, hosted the annual AT&T PGA tour event, the 1999 U.S. Amateur competition and the 2000 U.S. Open. The job included all outdoor amenities including the beach club, the equestrian center and reestablishing native plants in the dunes. During this time, the Monterey pines developed pitch canker, a disease that threatened to wipe out the forest. Ted worked with UC Berkeley and UC Davis to find a cure, but the best result came from finding resistant Monterey Pines and growing them in a nursery to replace dying trees. This research led Ted to meet with geneticists from Australia, China, New Zealand and Chile, where the Monterey pine is grown as wood crop and whose value was threatened by pitch canker.

During these years, Ted contributed to his profession by accepting voluntary positions in the Met GCSAA, in the tri-state New York area, including President. He was editor of the newsletter. He taught one-day seminars for superintendents around the U.S and Canada.  The topics included Safety and Risk Management, tournament preparation and turf maintenance. He gave a young researcher a desk in his office so she could work on Hyperodes, an insect that was damaging golf courses in the tri-state area, and raised research funds. Pat Vittum went on to receive her PH.D. and retired last year as a fully tenured professor at the University of Massachusetts. Ted hired female employees when no other superintendent would, and several went on to become superintendents. Ted mentored hundreds of young men who entered the profession as greenkeepers and went on to become superintendents all over the U.S.

Ted also consulted on golf courses in Morocco, Thailand, Ireland, Taiwan and the Republic of Palau. In 1971, Winged Foot “loaned” Ted to the King of Morocco to help prepare Dar Es Salaam Golf Course, a Robert Trent Jones design, for the first Grand Prix de Maroc. In six weeks, the course was ready and professional and amateur golfers came from all over the world to play golf. The Grand Prix de Maroc is still played today in Rabat.

In 1995, Ted invited representatives from leading environmental groups, the U.S.G.A, GCSAA, PGA and CMA to Pebble Beach for the initial conference for Golf in the Environment. These groups, which have not always worked well together, spent several days forging an agreement to work together to ensure that practices in their profession would be environmentally sound. The International Audubon Society showed golf courses how to plant animal-friendly plants, use fewer pesticides and encourage bird, butterfly and animal cohabitation with golf on golf courses. This association is now an important part of the GCSAA’s platform to make golf courses safe for wildlife. Hundreds of golf courses now proudly bear the designation, International Audubon’s Signature Golf Course. Ted is now a board member of the International Audubon Society, based in Troy, New York.

In December 2000, Ted moved to Canyon Lake and became a consultant for Valley Crest Golf Course Management, as Senior Consulting Golf Course Superintendent, as an expert witness in trials involving accidents on golf courses, and as a consultant to individual courses all over the U.S. He lectures frequently to local superintendents’ associations and in San Antonio, spoke to the Top Agronomic Officers of the National Golf Course Owners Association about “Return on Investment.” He founded the California Golf Course Owners Association and served as its Executive Director for 10 years. He helped the NGCOA establish the Top Agronomic Officers group, which meets annually with the group in June. Ted helped found CAG, the California Alliance for Golf, and was its president for its initial six years. Ted still attends its meetings and works to promote golf in California.

Ted has lived in Canyon Lake for 17 years with Nancy, his wife of 52 years. They have two sons. One is a pediatrician and the other is the owner of a plumbing company. They have five grandchildren and four step-grandchildren.

Ted has never been a regular golfer, preferring to improve courses rather than tear them up.  He is a secretary of the CL Men’s Golf Club and was a member of the Canyon Lake POA Board of Directors for 2015 to 2017. Ted is a member of Canyon Lake Community Church, serving as a preparer for Bodacious Breakfasts, a member of Series 33, a regular attendee at Men’s Breakfasts, Jack Gray’s Golf Christian Fellowship and a member of Boiler Room, a small group Bible Study.

Ted is a strong believer that the whole community “owns” Canyon Lake Country Club and that space and time need to be set aside so that Canyon Lakers can walk on the cart paths of the golf course and families can enjoy biking, fitness and being in nature in a safe environment. This is a practice at Pebble Beach and St. Andrews, Scotland, and he believes it should also be in Canyon Lake.